Please note that this post contains major spoilers.
After watching ‘Turn Left’ (Doctor Who, Series 4, Episode 11), I have often wondered what would have happened if I had made a different choice at a critical point in my life – essentially, would it have changed my life drastically? ‘Heads You Win’ explores that concept beautifully, as it shows how Alexander’s life would have panned out as he leaves his life’s biggest decision up to the flip of a coin.
‘Heads You Win’ was incredibly written, with a narrative that had been skillfully woven. Sasha and Alex were sketched in a masterly manner – his beliefs, personality and principals shone through. However, both became distinctive individuals in their own right as their paths kept separating and converging at set points. Additionally, an array of varied personalities and complexities were depicted in the form of secondary characters that were present in both Alex’s and Sasha’s life.
The ending was intriguing as well as being somewhat frustrating as it was rather open and left to interpretation. However, perhaps in the end it does not matter which Alexander survived (i.e. Alex or Sasha) as technically if history were to be followed, he would have eventually died by the hands of Vladimir.
Another interesting concept that this book explored (something which ‘Doctor Who’ often touches upon) was essentially having ‘fixed’ points in time (i.e. things that do not change regardless of the path taken) . Despite leading different lives in Britain and America and their circumstances varying massively, there seem to be a lot of similarities between the Alex’s and Sasha’s life. For example, both have a connection to the food industry, both wives have some link to the art world and both have some involvement with politics to varying degrees. This in a way reflects the ending in the regard that some aspects of life cannot be altered in spite of the difference in choices made.
“Here are many who are suspicious of a first-class mind, while others will make a judgment based not on the words you say, but the accent in which they’re pronounced.”
Despite having a strong plot line, there were still some elements that were not fully explained, leading to confusion. At some point in the book, characters from Alex’s life seem to mistake Sasha for Alex (and vice versa), indicating that both Alex and Sasha were real. In fact this could be taken as a hint suggesting that actually perhaps both Alex and Sasha were real; a possible theory could be that Sasha and Alex are twins; one got in the crate to America and the other got in to the crate going to Britain. Although this could be potentially plausible and would somewhat explain the ending better (i.e. the two planes etc), the theory is still problematic as both storylines contain Elena as a central character. Honestly speaking, it would be a ridiculous coincidence (you know what they say about coincidences – the universe is rarely so lazy) for there to be two Elenas, both with the same family and relationships.
As such, it can be assumed that there was only one Alexander. A possible theory is that given the title of the book, it was Alex’s life that Alexander led as Alexander decided that should the coin land on ‘heads’, he will go to America. Nonetheless, it does not explain the reception he received when he landed in Russia. Regardless of this confusion, it must be noted that the end sentence was pure brilliance – after reading it, I just stared at it in shock for a good couple of minutes, willing my mind to stop spinning. In hindsight, all the clues were there, and yet it still came as a complete shock.
In a nutshell, this was a thought-provoking concept that had been brilliantly explored and woven in to a story. Set against the backdrop of political intrigue, Alexander’s journey as Alex/Sasha spanning over thirty odd years is immersive to say the least, as he soon learns that he cannot run away from his past.
P.S. If I had a pound for every time I didn’t know what was going on, I would be like ‘why am I always getting this free money?’ 🙂